On Friday morning, Dan A. Hughes Oil Company and the Collier Resources Company agreed to terminate their lease agreement, with the exception of the Collier Hogan 20-3H well, next to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary  in Naples, Florida.
Hughes Oil dropped its plans to drill an exploratory well adjacent to the Golden Gates Estates development.
“We are very happy that Hughes won’t drill next to our home,” Pamela Duran, who lives 1,000 feet away from the previously proposed drill site, told DeSmogBlog.
“I think the whole neighborhood feels like there is a heavy weight taken off our shoulders,” she said.
Pamela Duran in front of her house in Naples, Florida. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Site next to the Golden Gates Estates development where Dan A Hughes Company dropped their drilling permit request. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
“We make this announcement with the knowledge that our activities in the region have caused no harm to the environment and have been fully compliant with Florida Law,” Dan A. Hughes Company stated this morning in a letter published by the Naples Daily News .
However, Hughes was caught moving forward with a workover request they made that had been denied by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) last New Years Eve. Their work order called for an “enhanced extraction” procedure synonymous to fracking,  which had never been done before in Florida.
Aerial view of the Collier Hogan 20-3H well site in May 2014, weeks after a spill was reported to the Florida regulatory agency. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
“The department became aware of workover operations being conducted because our inspector observed them while on site,” Dee Ann Mill, spokesperson for the regulatory agency, told DeSmogBlog.
The regulatory agency issued a Cease and Desist Order and fined Hughes Oil $25,000. They also “compelled the company to pay a third-party independent expert to perform the groundwater monitoring and investigations needed to ensure no harm to groundwater resources had resulted from the company’s work-over operations,” according to Miller.
“The chronology of events remains suspicious. Neither Hughes nor the FDEP will disclose just what Hughes did under cover of darkness last New Year's Eve, claiming it is a “trade secret,” states Preserve Our Paradise inc ., a community based environmental group. ”But assume it was a frack job. Hughes got the job done while both Hughes and the FDEP got plausible deniability,” the group wrote on their blog.
“The FDEP eventually announced it had fined Hughes $25,000–more of a handshake than a slap-on-the-wrist–and Hughes can claim, as it started to do in court, that the FDEP had not told Hughes to stop its plans within the originally agreed upon Dec. 30th timeframe.”
The regulator’s lack of transparency has frustrated the public and the Collier Council Commissioners, who have been at odds with the FDEP.
“There are still many existing demands we have of Dan A. Hughes in order for them to continue their operations at the Collier Hogan site,” FDEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said today. “We will be prepared to take action after the July 15 deadline, in accordance with what they have chosen to do or not to do.”
Collier County commissioners are still pursuing their own administrative challenge to the Collier Hogan well and are asking for a revocation of the consent order and the well’s permit, Naples News reports .
“This is a huge victory for us,” Alexis Meyer, representative of the Sierra Club's Florida panther critical habitat campaign, told DeSmogBlog. “But this doesn't fix the deficient enforcement of the Hogan Collier well. Given Florida’s hydrology and that the area is part of environmentally sensitive land, a permit for this well should never have been issued.”
Water from this area flows south, so if the aquifer is contaminated, water will flow into the Everglades.
Without a moratorium on fracking, Florida is still not safe from the fracking industry because another company could still lease land from Collier Resources.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples Florida still threatened by the Collier Hogan 20-3H drill site operated by the Dan A Hughes Company. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Meyer and others in the community are still calling for an independent third party to do water testing at the Collier Hogan site. The tests done so far sampled water from a depth of thirteen feet, despite the depth of the drill site being over 12,000 feet.
The battle to stop drilling in the area has consumed the Durans’ life for the past 15 months.
“We were tired, sad, angry, bullied, threatened, and wanted to give up many times, thinking ‘what good is it to fight against these oil companies’? We told ourselves many times if we stop they will win,” Pamela Duran told DeSmogBlog.
“We knew if we fought and gave it our all, at least we could sleep knowing that we did everything we could. If not us then who? This is a victory for Florida. I hope more and more people learn about their environment and stand up for the further generations. Never give up,” Duran said.